Epiphany 2019 – “We Come to Worship the King!” Matthew 2:1-12
Epiphany 2019 – “We Come to Worship the King!” Matthew 2:1-12
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 2nd Chapter:
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For, we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The Feast of Epiphany closes the Christmas celebration. It is the appropriate ending for the first few years of the Savior’s life. We recently gathered in candlelight vigil on Christmas Eve to recount the prophetic Word concerning Jesus birth. We recently gathered in the sanctuary of God’s House to celebrate the fulfillment of that prophetic word so many years ago when the Light of the World was born.
The Feast of Epiphany is concerned with light and worship as well. In this Gospel account of St Matthew, we read of Magi, men of wisdom, coming to the One born King of the Jews. They followed a light directing them to the very place where the King of the Jews could be found.
We have only just recently gathered under a man-made star. Under the cover of the night as midnight rolled around this planet, cities the world over were magnets, if you will, for people seeking the bright star heralding the New Year. How many of us gathered in front our televisions to welcome the New Year with the falling of the crystal ball in Time Square? Masses gathered in Time Square and other places to celebrate the Old Year coming to a close and the New Year making its beginning.
What did you do to prepare for this celebration? Some of God’s faithful gathered in houses of worship as did we on that evening. We gathered to lay to rest the sins of the past years with Confession and Absolution. We implored the Lord of heaven and earth to grant greater faithfulness to His people in the year that was upon us. We received assurance of God’s grace and mercy through Word and Sacrament. We recounted the new life given by God in Holy Baptism and received the Divine Feast of Salvation from His altar.
The Magi come to Jerusalem led not by a man-made star, but by the Star of God’s Providence. There are a number of explanations for this star in the East, but men discount each explanation as being improbable. Efforts have been made to link the star to planets in alignment, to super novas or exploding stars, and to meteors passing through earth’s atmosphere. Star charts have been made reversing the travel of the stars and checking what their alignment would be at the time of Jesus’ birth. Possibilities abound to determine which stars were in the right place at the right time to give the right encouragement to these Magoi. Suffice it to say that God was fulfilling his plan for the salvation of the world. Jew and Gentile come to worship the King of the Jews.
On the eve of Jesus birth, the angel went to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. The glory of the Lord was revealed to them from heaven and they were led by the word of the divine messenger to child wrapped in swaddling cloths. They look upon the child in joy and amazement at what God has done. They rejoice and give praise to God for what they see and heard.
Now some time later, perhaps two years, perhaps two months, the Goyim, the Gentiles are brought to this Christ-Child’s presence. God in His mysterious manner of working gave promise to these wise men from the east. Through the captivity of Israel in foreign lands, the Word of God was placed into the hands of foreigners. All to fulfill the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
“And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
The nations come to the Christ believing the Word of God and desiring to look upon the fulfillment of the ages. The Magi come to where they believe the Child should live. They come to the city of God, Jerusalem, seeking to worship this Christ. But they find confusion and mystery still in place. Thick darkness has apparently not been lifted. There is no knowledge that the One born King of the Jews has indeed been born.
Herod, hearing this request of his visitors, reveals his dark unbelief. We read of Herod being troubled, a clue to his nature, will and desires. Dr Paul Maier, in his book In the Fullness of Time, writes that Herod was known to be a very paranoid king, fearing for his throne and giving in to the intrigue in his court. Herod, blinded by this fear, murdered many of his family members. Even Caesar was moved to raise an eyebrow. Dr. Maier writes:
“Augustus had to admit, “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son.” It was not only a play on similar sounding Greek words for son and pig, but a wry reference to the fact that pork, at least, was not consumed by Jews.”
What unbelief still clings to you? What keeps you from giving due honor and adoration to the Christ Child? As with Herod the sin-darkened ego is a formidable enemy of faith. The sin-darkened ego ascends to the throne of God and seeks to cast God out of His seat. The sin-darkened ego is troubled when confronted when the light of God’s incarnate Word shines upon it. We sang earlier the words of the Introit which proclaimed God loves righteousness and hates wickedness. The sin-darkened ego loves wickedness and hates righteousness. It is opposed to God on every hand.
Yet, such opposition may be subtle. Herod for all his evil did many seemingly good works. He rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem. In time of famine he sold his personal gold and silver to buy food for his people. Yet, the Light of God did not shine in Herod’s life. He feigned adoration of God by directing the Magi to the town of Bethlehem to find the Christ. Herod chose not to love this light, but to snuff this light. Herod chose to remain in the darkness of unbelief and rebellion. Herod chose to hold what he could with his own strength and ignore that it was the Lord God who gave him all things. Herod hoped to kill God, sending soldiers to Bethlehem to slaughter male children two years old and younger. Herod worshiped himself.
Nothing changes over time. The sin-darkened ego still loves the darkness and fears to come into the light of God’s presence. Even in the Church the sin-darkened ego is present to some extent in all of us. Scripture calls it the Old Adam. The Old Adam leads us to set a minimum amount of time we give to sitting in the Light of the Christ Child. Perhaps you can think of it in a similar fashion as Seasonal Affective Disorder. The person suffering from this disorder becomes depressed during seasons with low levels of sunlight. The therapy, if you will, is sitting in bright light for a period of time each day. Do you know what a “Happy Light” is? It is a fluorescent lamp made by Verilux to address this disorder. Very bright and very effective.
We still struggle with Sin Affective Disorder. The person suffering from this disorder also is affected adversely by the lack of light. However, the light that is lacking is not the light of the sun around which our planet orbits. Rather, it is lack of the light of the Son of God. People with this sin disorder struggle with the value of worship, the study of God’s Word, and giving service to the Lord. We tend to set limits by which we will sit in the Light of God’s Word. Once a month, twice a month, once a year, twice a year, four times a year … you understand the thought. You see no necessity to live regularly, frequently and daily the upward calling God gave you in Jesus Christ.
The Word of God is no longer seen as the word of truth. The Word of God is seen as one light among many shining no brighter than any other word. You hear it from politicians, professors and others who choose to reject the Christ Child and encourage others to do the same.
Yet, this Light of God’s Word made flesh will not be snuffed out. This Word of God made flesh will stand forever as the only hope for sinners the world over from generation to generation, and for all people Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus is called King for good reason. He reigns eternally victorious over sin and shines eternally as the bright reflection of the Creator’s face to the world which would turn its face away.
In the presence this Child-King the heavenly Father led shepherds, and wise men to bow in humble adoration. We were brought into the presence of this same Child-King in the water of Holy Baptism. The eternal light of God’s salvation was poured out upon us, that we would perpetually bow in humble and faithful adoration and worship. God shone the light of His grace upon us that we would desire the light that makes us more than happy. For this light, the Gospel of forgiveness and life, satisfies the wants of our soul and the needs of our life as it did for the shepherds so long ago.
The Wise Men likewise were moved to come and worship this new-born king. In joy they come to the town of Bethlehem, following the sign of God to place of the One born King of the Jews. They bring with them tokens of worship and adoration along with the words of their heart and mind. They bow in humble adoration before the Child-King and lay before Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Costly gifts freely given as acts of worship adoration and thanksgiving that God fulfilled His promise in their lives.
We also are moved to come and worship the Child-King Jesus Christ. God called us through His Word and holy washing to come before him in thanks and adoration for fulfilling His will in our lives. We confess in the creeds that God called gathered and enlightened us that we would be joined to the Christ Child for eternal life. Again God fulfilled His will in us. We bring before him in humble adoration, worship and thanksgiving the lives God redeemed. We give back to God what He gives to us and ask Him to use us for His Kingdom.
We recognize and believe that like the Wise Men, God has shown us a path to safety and peace that leads us away from the one who would destroy us. The Wise Men were led away from Herod to go home by a different way. We are led by the Holy Spirit to our heavenly home by the way of righteousness, faith and truth. On the day of Days when we are admitted to the kingdom yet to come we will say with all believers in Christ, “We come to worship the King.” God keep you for that day.
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen